Scotland's Voice to the Fore on EU Agriculture Reform

29 August 2008
Scotland's only full member on the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee Mr Alyn Smith, has submitted several amendments to the Santos Report for the Common Agriculture Policy Health Check which will ease the burden carried by Scottish farmers and increase their influence in decision making.

The deadline for amendments was yesterday, and Smith's amendments, drawn up after extensive consultation with farmers and crofters in Scotland as well as the Scottish government deal with decoupling of aid and payment scheme simplification; modulation; cross compliance; and seek to end tobacco aid.

Smith commented:

"Scottish farmers face tough times, not least because of the rising cost of raw materials and inputs, the high price of oil, the strong pound, and the looming spectre of electronic sheep identification as well as uncertainty over the future pesticides and LFA regimes. With this economic backdrop as we reform the Common Agricultural Policy I have been 100% focussed upon actually assisting farmers, not adding further burdens and complications.

"I am confident my amendments will gain support, as we have been active in promoting them and winning friends for our views. I seek to continue the process of decoupling in livestock payments in the Single Payment Scheme. This will simplify the payment system for farmers, and eliminate distortions of competition which prevent a level playing field from occurring. I have submitted amendments which will reduce the administrative burden for farmers when complying with cross compliance, ensuring that Commission oversight is not too onerous.

"I remain against voluntary modulation, but the debate has moved on and I seek to make modulation work without placing our farmers at a competitive disadvantage. I believe that all modulated money should be retained by the country that generated it, to offset the lost income for farmers. I seek the deletion of the "progressive modulation" proposals, which punish farms merely for their size, and threatens upheaval and the unnecessary break-up of farms. And I have submitted an amendment which asks Member States to reduce voluntary modulation as compulsory modulation is raised, so that Scottish farmers are not at a competitive disadvantage compared to most of our European counterparts. At the same time, we must make sure that rural development money is not lowered as a result, and again I have submitted an amendment to that effect.

"I believe in local decision making. Devolved implementation allows European policies to take account of the infinite variety of local contexts. Therefore, decisions on cross compliance must be made by devolved assemblies, and decisions on an appropriate threshold for minimum payments must be taken by the Member States, with no arbitrary figure set by Brussels. Authorities like the Scottish government must also be part of the decision making process with regard to special payments.

"I have also put in amendments on making set-aside a normal entitlement and focusing Article 68 payments on disadvantaged and peripheral regions. Finally, I seek to abolish aid to tobacco production. It is flatly illogical for the European taxpayer to spend millions on educating people away from tobacco for this work to be undermined by public money supporting its production. I will do all in my power to see that this funding is ended."